Researchers in India say
that some common spices — red chili powder,
black pepper and turmeric — can actually prevent bacteria such as E.
coli from being destroyed by irradiation.
The finding that the spices
protect some bacteria against irradiation
was “contrary to expectations,” according to the article. “The observed
protection of microbes may essentially be due to the protection of
their DNA by the constituents of spices,” say the researchers. Chili
offered the highest level of protection, followed by black pepper and
“Spices potentially can
offer protection to organisms against the
damaging effects of gamma radiation, and also offer hope for the
development of better radioprotective agents,” claims Sharma.
Two antioxidants in black
pepper and turmeric — piperine and curcumin —
were found to help protect the bacteria’s DNA from damage by
irradiation during the study. “However,” the article notes, “these
compounds may not be the sole protecting agents present in spices.”
Several other food
constituents — including some proteins, fats
and carbohydrates — also are known to protect microorganisms from
decontamination by irradiation, as well as by heat and chemicals, says
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